The Cure of the Imagination. Intersections of Pedagogy, Medicine and Aesthetics in the Enlightenment

In the last few decades, the idea of the “cure of the soul” or medicina mentis has enjoyed wide currency within early modern studies. While according to Hadot and Foucault the application of this notion was problematic in post-Cartesian thought, the latest research has shown that a practical-paideic conception of philosophy is very much at home in the seventeenth century, from Bacon to Descartes, from Spinoza to Locke. In this conference we aim to further extend the study of this conception and investigate its significance in an age – the age of the Enlightenment – which is still under-researched in this respect. More specifically, we aim to investigate the way in which the “therapies of the mind” intersect multiple discourses of the eighteenth century up to Kant, from ethics and pedagogy to the so-called “rational medicine”, taking up motifs from the previous century, but also introducing new elements of reflection.

The focus of our conference will be the problem of the imagination: we aim to study the conceptualisation of the specific diseases of the imagination as well as the strategies and spiritual exercises used for their possible cure. The focus on the imagination makes it possible to examine the exchanges between the different areas of Enlightenment knowledge in an original way. As is well known, the imagination is tightly linked with the issue of the internal senses, and represents an essential point of view both for understanding the evolution of the Aristotelian tradition in the early modern period and for emerging discourses such as those of aesthetics and psychotherapy. For this reason, we intend to analyse how the cure of the imagination both anticipates and catalyses the rise of these new disciplines.

The conference is organised within the research project Between Truth and Freedom: Enlightenment Answers to ‘Thinking for Oneself’ (funded by UEFISCDI; code PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020-2579).

For all those who might be interested in participating in the conference, please request the link zoom at

The Cure of the Imagination_ programme

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